Last month I featured an article on ANZAC Day and the Mount Felix Hospital. Since April 2015 a small army of stitchers around Elmbridge have worked in teams, and sometimes on their own, to create 44 panels for the Mount Felix Tapestry.
The Riverhouse Barn, Manor Road, Walton on Thames KT12 2BF, is excited to be nearing the end of the community stitch project commemorating the centenary of the Mount Felix Hospital in Walton throughout WWI. The stitchers have identified three stories of soldiers who met and fell in love with their future wives during their time at Mount Felix. These stories as well as those of nurses and doctors as well as members of the community of Walton create a narrative. The Riverhouse will be displaying this incredible work in April 2017.
They then hope to be able to tour the work around the local area, and as far afield as New Zealand, where some of the tapestry has been stitched and where the descendants of some of the soldiers and nurses who passed through the doors of Mount Felix now live. The tapestry is on display until May 14th.
Recently, I myself visited the work and I must say it is fantastic. I thought I would share some of the work produced by our own community. Below are 3 of the 44 panels, one stitched by members of Elmbridge Council, another stitched by the Molesey WI, and one produced by Claremont Fan School. Do take a chance to visit.
Panel 5. “Your Country Needs You.” This panel is designed to reflect the campaigns to recruit men and women for the war effort in both Walton on Thames and New Zealand. The fern in the middle of the design is the New Zealand emblem and there was much discussion as to which way it should face and whether it should be silver or green. In other words, whether it should follow the design of the official emblem or reflect the actual plant. Stitchers: Elmbridge Borough Council – Anna Bright, Vicki Rookhard-Wheatley, Rebecca King and Jennifer Bailey (supported by Dorothy Hulatt)
Panel 17. Volunteer Nurses from New Zealand. Volunteer Nurses from New Zealand are believed to have been billeted in Old Manor House on Manor Road. The family of Ruth Rosewell, who married Alexander Grant, and who owned Rosewell’s boatyard are said to have had control of (possibly owned) the building at that time. Nurses billeted there may have included Edith Popplewell, whose story we follow later and many other nurses from New Zealand. Other local VADs, like Edith Knapman, who married Randal Borthwick Browne, would have stayed at home. Stitched by Molesey WI: This panel was worked by members of the Molesey Women’s Institute (3 miles from Walton). We got involved with the project when we had a talk about the Mount Felix Hospital. Many of us had been unaware of this part of our history and thus became inspired to attempt a panel.
Panel 40. A Dynasty is Formed. Edith Knapman and Randal Borthwick Browne were married 2 March 1918 in Hersham Parish Church, and set off for a new life in New Zealand. He and Edith went on to have 6 children – in order of birth Colin, Betty, Thomas, Randal, Douglas and Judy. The 4 eldest served in the Second World War. Edith was a redoubtable character and lived to her 90th year, always a strong presence in the local community. Four of their children are still alive. Stitchers: Claremont Fan Court School